It was definitely thought provoking reading some of your comments in response to my last post about Art Briles. While I certainly have my share of misgivings about the way sexual assault claims are handled by schools sometimes, it’s fair to say that I have even greater misgivings about Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Donald Trump being the perfect vessels to bring greater fairness and clarity to the system.
That being said, aside from my ad hominems, there are a few basic issues, some specific to Baylor, others more general, that make it hard for me to decide what would make for a better system. I’m curious to hear more from you about whether you share any of my qualms.
- Baylor’s problems don’t stem from Title IX enforcement. Remember, the university didn’t even have a Title IX office until November 2014 and none of the coaches there ever received proper training. Would things have gone differently if it had? There’s no way to know, of course, but it’s hard to think of a way a Title IX office could have made things worse.
- Schools and their attendant athletic departments are bureaucracies. The most reflexive thing bureaucracies do when facing threats is to circle the wagons in an attempt to protect their own. A recent example of that can be found at the University of Colorado, where the school’s first reaction in response to being notified that one of its assistant coaches was a serial assaulter was to lock it down before being forced to face up to dismissing him.
- Expecting police departments and prosecutors in football towns to be able to provide an adequate venue in which to investigate assault claims is a hit and miss proposition at best. Do I really need to bring up places like Knoxville and Tallahassee as a reminder? Or the Duke lacrosse scandal? Or the convenient collegiality between Huntley Johnson and the Gainesville prosecutor? Even if you’re in a jurisdiction where the local justice personnel are willing to do their jobs professionally, what good is that in the face of a school that is prepared to do what it takes to keep information away and discourage witnesses from bringing charges?
On the flip side, how can you not be outraged about what happened with those kids at Minnesota, assuming what they allege is accurate?
The players got a two-day appeal hearing last week to argue their case. Pacyga said the players were pressured into speaking with the Title IX investigator and threatened that they could not practice until they did. And several of the players testified Friday that some of the comments that were attributed to them in the report were inaccurate. He also said the panel was not allowed to see a 90-second video that police officers reviewed that he claims proves the woman consented to sex with at least two of the players and the players also were denied individual hearings and instead were grouped together, despite the fact that five players were not accused of having any sexual contact with the woman.
“You walk into them and the deck is stacked against you if you’re an accused student in these hearings,” Pacyga said.
That ain’t right.
If there’s a common thread running through all of this, it’s leverage and what’s convenient for a school. Maybe Minnesota shows that student-athletes on their own are deserving of more due process protection than a school wielding its Title IX office as a sword for its own ends rather than as a shield for the victims is willing to provide. On the other hand, maybe what’s needed in the face of a school trying to protect its own is an even more forceful Title IX presence to force it to confront institutional actors more concerned about winning sports programs than making sure that innocent victims of sexual assault have redress.
I admit there aren’t a lot of easy answers here, human nature being what it is. But I also have to figure that while we hear much about the places where things get out of control, there are also institutions that have come up with ways to balance the competing issues that, while not perfect, are better than what we see at Waco or Knoxville. And better than what we’re likely to see come from Ian McCaw’s new boss. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask anyone with college-aged daughters to expect less.